In the midst of economic disasters, vacations in Eastern Europe, and the prospect of participating in the most important Presidential election in history, I missed a few things in the world of words that I’d like to throw out on the table – just some topics that have arisen in the last few weeks that are worth mentioning:
– News of the worst kind: author David Foster Wallace committed suicide on September 14. (I was out of the country then & didn’t hear until I returned at the end of the month.) I’d be the first to admit that I have never read one of his books (Infinite Jest is incomprehensible jibberjabber) but it makes my heart glow to see these soccer moms coming out to pick up his titles. What is it about people that makes them go out and buy an author’s books as soon as they die? “Hey lady, if you liked ‘Pat the Bunny’, you’ll love ‘Infinite Jest’!”
– The book “Jewel of Medina” by Sherry Jones is to be published by maverick publisher, Beaufort Books. Why is this significant, you ask? “Jewel”, originally slated to be published by Ballantine (a Random House imprint) in August, is a fictional rendering of the life of A’ishe, the child bride of the prophet Muhhamed. Ballantine canned the printing when they realized that the author took some creative liberties with the character that was deemed to be potentially offensive to those of the Muslim faith. Beaufort, whom you may remember from such books as “If I Did It” by O.J. Simpson, decided that the book was worth salvaging and has brokered a deal with Jones to publish this fall. At the end of September, the home of Martin Rynja, publisher of the UK edition of the book, was damaged in an apparent terrorist attack. Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort and creepy Bible-thumper, believes that it is his civic duty to publish “Jewel”, as it has become a free-speech issue for him. “We can’t have groups telling us what we can and can’t publish,” he said. Stay tuned.
– Finally, an independent bookseller in a position to have people listen to them, has taken a stand against the things that are wrong in the industry. At the fall trade show for the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, outgoing president Carol Besse made a call to arms for indies to explicitly explain to their customers why it is bad for them to purchase books from Amazon.com and blasted publishers and their authors for offering chain-only selections. She called for a “grassroots effort to re-educate every author” when they visit independants and laid into publisher Chelsea Green for their Amazon-only release, Obama’s Challenge in August and author Jonathan Alter for signing with Borders’s State Street Press for his upcoming book. If I could only get people to read this blog, we’d really be onto something.
– Rumor had it that Tina Fey said she wanted a “literary” press to carry her upcoming “memoir”. Then why did she choose Little, Brown? Ah, who cares, do the Palin impression again!
– If you live in San Diego – or the greater SoCal area, for that matter – don’t miss Mr. Billy Collins appearing at D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla on October 19th at 5pm. Collins will be reading from and signing his new collection, Ballistics.
And, for those of you who actually know me personally, I am almost done uploading all my photos from my trip to Czech Republic, Croatia, and Hungary – I’ll have the link on here just as soon as I am ready. Check back soon. (This one was taken off the coast of the Croatian island of Vis.)